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Welcome to my site. I am a musician and a lover of creative expression through all forms of art. This is my safe place to share mine.

Using God-Given Gifts for His Glory: A Music Major's Thoughts

Using God-Given Gifts for His Glory: A Music Major's Thoughts

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The lights shine so brightly they almost blur your vision, but your eyes glisten under them. You can't see the audience over the lights, but you can hear them screaming. You smile at the attention, entranced by the beauty of the lights and the set and the people all staring at you in adoration. You could never feel the same sort of rush even if you suddenly sprouted wings and flew. You could never feel more at home, or more whole in that moment. Lord, let this be about you and not about me.

The first all-music department concert here at Greenville College took place on Family Day, the night of September 20th. The Jazz Band, GC Choir, Chamber Singers, Professor Marsch, Professor Erickson, Professor Woessner, and a Worship Ensemble performed. It showed the great variety in the music department here, and was a special concert to perform for all the parents who came to see their children shine. As a part of a large choir, I found that there was nothing to be nervous about. I got over any stage-fright about five years ago when I realized that confidence was the key to success. The atmosphere seemed so casual despite us girls' long black (and naturally hideous) choir dresses contrasting horribly with the classy tuxes the guys wore. We walked onstage when it was time, performed our pieces almost robotically, and got offstage to semi-enthusiastic applause. It was okay. We knew we sang semi-boring songs, and of course the audience was going to like the up-beat jazz band more than our beautiful, but admittedly slow and unexciting pieces. After a couple other numbers, Chamber Singers(which I am also a part of) performed, and seemed a little more well-received by the audience. Overall, I think it was a good concert; the choir and our director, Dr. Wilson, felt good about our performances, and the parents and students I talked to seemed to really enjoy it. I'm sure the negativity was just my personal impression of audience response, and me projecting my feelings about our performance onto them.

Lord, let this be about you and not about me.

I have been performing since the age of 4; my stage debut was a solo of Silent Night in German in my church's Christmas pageant. I've always sung onstage and offstage, so performing has become second nature – but it still feels new and perfect every time; nothing could make me happier. When I was 9 years old, I auditioned for The Wizard of Oz. It was a great first musical theater experience and I instantly decided that I wanted to be on Broadway. I went on to be in many more shows, loving each one more and more as I went on. When you constantly get better and better parts, more and more lead roles, and more and more attention, it's hard not to get a big head. My last high school production was West Side Story, which is basically Romeo and Juliet set in New York City in the 1950s. The main part, Maria(the Juliet character), was one of my dream roles, and I was fortunate enough to get the part. It was so difficult to not make the show all about me because I was the main role, I had the most songs, the most lines; the show was literally about my character. It's hard when you get so much attention and compliments to not only believe them, but to let them get to your head. Looking back I see I should've reminded myself that my talents are God-given and should be used for His glory, not for my own. As James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

Lord, let this be about you and not about me.

In the Family Day concert, the Choir sang Be Thou My Vision, Hopkinton, Come Away to the Skies, and Praise to the Lord. These are all songs speaking of and glorifying God. How many of us were actually thinking about and glorifying Christ as we sang these songs? I can only speak for myself, but I sure wasn't. In practice, we think of hitting the right notes, memorizing the words, etc, etc, etc...but not about the topic of our songs. In performance, it's even harder to think of praising God. Then our minds are consumed with not only hitting the right notes and remembering the lyrics, but the audience that is staring at us and how we appear in our dress and our facial expressions. Can they hear me? Oh crap I didn't hit the right note there, I hope no one noticed. Whoops, I sang the alto part, good thing the audience can't tell.Wow I totally just sang the wrong lyrics...Yes, these are all natural thoughts to have, and it's okay to have these thoughts; in the end, the awareness makes for a good performance. But there is a level beyond that self-consciousness, a level in which we can remember all the little details of a good performance while also focusing on the God who gave us our talent in the first place. When singing Christian lyrics, this is the easiest to do, because all we have to do is comprehend the words we are singing and learn to mean them. Not having a “perfect” personal performance, but glorifying God is the most important thing in any performance.

Lord, let this be about you and not about me.

When we aren't singing Christian lyrics, it's even harder to focus on God. In these performances we not only think of our personal performance and technique, but a lot of the time, about the lyrics we are singing, which are not always God-glorifying. I'm a Commercial Music major, and I've sung enough pop music to know that the lyrics can be edgy enough to make me feel “cool” and “rebellious” when I sing them. At the end of the day, the first step to glorifying God in our performances is humility. You need to get out of the center of your own universe and realize that the performance, even when you are singing a solo or it's literally only you on stage, is not solely about you. When you're so consumed with yourself that you can't see others' talent, how can you even begin to recognize God in your performance? Once you stop thinking the world is all about you(a very real struggle I and I'm sure others face every day), then you can begin to glorify God with your voice, with your fingers, and with your life.

Lord, let this be about you and not about me.

My sinful mind tries to convince myself all the time that it's not only the talent that God gave me that has gotten me here; it's also my hard work at honing that gift. God also gave me my work ethic, and every opportunity I've gotten to learn. It's so easy to think that I'm so great, especially when people have been telling me my entire life. Being a music major, this is so difficult, because I'm literally here to learn how to become a better performer and musician. But why do I want to become better? Is it for me and my own glory? To be brutally honest, I think most days I would answer yes. Everyday I have to remind myself it's all for God's glory and His praise.

Lord, let this be about you and not about me.

After the Family Day concert I felt strangely unsatisfied, and after thinking it over, I realized it wasn't because I didn't perform well, but because I wasn't performing for the right reasons or with my heart in the right place. As much joy as performing brings me, there's an even greater, deeper joy in store when it's about God instead of about me. Our failure doesn't matter when our performance isn't about us! Any shame or guilt or failure we feel disappears in the light of God's grace; this is reason enough to stop performing for ourselves.

This was the first of my many college performances to come, and I'm glad God gave me this wake-up call before the rest of them. I've started taking the time in the stressful moments and praying right before each rehearsal. I pray that God would open my eyes to the talent around me and let me see that I am not great and my talent is not what defines me; Jesus' love is.

Lord, let this be about you and not about me.

I'm assuming the majority of you aren't music majors. In what ways do you “perform”? How can you focus these performances on Jesus?

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” - 1 Corinthians 10:31

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” - 1 Peter 4:10-11

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” - 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

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